Having a strategic business plan is vital to the long-term success of a business. Dairy producers can develop a business plan for their operation at a six-week workshop presented by Penn State Dairy Alliance at sites across Pennsylvania. A grant provided by the Pa. Department of Labor and Industry makes the training available to Pa. producers at a discounted rate.

The Penn State Business Planning Workshop will lead producers, step-by-step, through the development of their own business plan. At the conclusion of the workshop, producers will have an individualized, strategic business plan that will help them create long-term sustainability through improved profitability.

“The program gave me a good, solid understanding of where my business is now and how I can better make decisions for the future,” explained Tim Kurtz, owner of Kurtland Farm, Elverson, Pa., who attended the training last year. Kurtz found that the plan he created provides direction for his advisory team. “I also have a Profit Team, and the big benefit of having a strategic business plan is that I now have something to utilize as a working plan for my advisory team. This is helping me get to the next level.”

Producers will go through a workbook that guides them through the strategic planning process. As they complete each section they will hand it in to a staff member, who will enter the data into a computer program. At the end of the course, each producer will have a complete business plan, customized to his or her dairy, which includes a current evaluation of the operation and maps future goals and objectives, as well as the tactics to achieve them, and long-term financial projections.

“The workshop was very comprehensive,” said Jim Biddle, owner of Mill Hill Farms, Williamsburg, Pa., who attended last year’s training. “It began with discussions of our business expectations. We then did a SWOT analysis (looking at strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats). The next step was to determine objectives, goals, strategies, and tactics. These were systematic and were the foundation for accurate financial projections," he added.

Biddle has shared his plan with lenders and family members who have financial and supportive interests in the operation. “Planning is vital to long-term success. Since we now have a written measure, we will be able to gauge our future performance. Although cautiously optimistic, we hope to out-perform our projections. If we don’t meet all of our goals, we will be able to pinpoint our shortcomings,” he observed.

Up to four members of the farm team may attend the training. Biddle said he found this particularly useful. “The weekly sessions away from the farm allowed our management team to completely concentrate on our business’s future,” he explained.

The six-week program will be held January 23, January 30, February 13, February 20, February 27, and March 5, 2008 at Penn State Harrisburg campus in Middletown, Pa., and via videoconference at Blair County Cooperative Extension Office, Somerset County Cooperative Extension Office, and Tioga County Cooperative Extension Office. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Thanks to a grant from the Pa. Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania dairy producers and their employees may attend for a discounted fee of $950 per farm. Additional $500 scholarships are available for eligible farms through the Center for Dairy Excellence and lenders, further reducing the fee to $450 for producers who qualify. Contact Brad Hilty, program coordinator, at 888-373-7232 or via email at bhilty@psu.edu for scholarship details. The non-discounted rate for producers outside of Pennsylvania is $2,450 per farm. To register with a credit card, visit the online Dairy Alliance registration site at: https://estore.psu.edu/dairyalliance. Phone registrations will also be taken at the phone number above.

Instructors include: Brad Hilty, information management specialist, Dairy Alliance; Mike Hosterman, dairy lending specialist, AgChoice Farm Credit; Scott Owens, dairy lending specialist, AgChoice Farm Credit; Joel Stauring, agricultural finance specialist, Dehm Associates, Geneseo, NY; and local Cooperative Extension educators. The Center for Dairy Excellence is a program collaborator.

Additional details and a complete program agenda are available at the workshop website: http://dairyalliance.psu.edu/education/business-planning/. Dairy Alliance is a Penn State Cooperative Extension initiative.   

PennState Dairy Alliance